Islamophobia getting mainstreamed in Europe, say webinar speakers

Say anti-Muslim sentiments in Europe can inflame further due to poor governance and economic losses suffered as result of mishandling of Covid-19 pandemic

ISLAMABAD - Speakers at a webinar here on Tuesday warned that Islamophobia was rapidly getting mainstreamed in Europe and it was time that leaders of Muslim countries urgently and proactively engage with the European leadership to address the problem.

They were speaking at a webinar hosted by Islamabad Policy Institute, an Islamabad based think tank, to discuss the growing number of Islamophobic incidents in Europe.

The speakers worried that the tacit support extended to Islamophobic organisations and individuals by the European governments was helping them advance their agenda and project Islam and Muslims as a threat to the European societies.

Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the United Kingdom based Islamic Human Rights Commission, said Islamophobia was becoming a “culture” in Europe and such attitudes towards the Muslims were being reinforced by governmental policies, actions of political figures, and the security machinery targeting the followers of Islam.

“Attacks such as pulling the veils off Muslim women, spitting on people and calling Muslims ‘terrorists’ are becoming common. Recently Islamophobic elements are prevailing in the media,” he maintained.

Speaking about the history of Islamohobia in Europe, the human rights campaigner said, though the phenomenon was very old, but events of 9/11 “legalised such sentiments.” Policies to counter terrorism, adopted by the European governments, had singled out Muslims and Islam as a threat and acted against them. This provided enabling conditions for Islamophobic sentiments to flourish.

IPI Researcher Mobeen Jafar Mir, who presented his paper on Islamophobia on this occasion, while agreeing with Shadjareh’s assessment said that use of provocative phrases by European leaders further helped in spread of the anti-Islam and anti-Muslim sentiments.

“Islamophobia gets intense when popular leaders also use controversial terms. Like German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s using the term ‘Islamic Extremism’ and French President Emmanuel Macron’s usage of words like ‘Islamic Separatism’,” he maintained. 

“Similarly, Islamophobia is also whipped up through works of conservative think tanks, like, Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion, now merged with the Henry Jackson Society, which normalise the anti-Muslim discourse,” Mobeen added.

Islamophobic Groups like Stop Islamisation of Denmark and English Defense League, Mobeen claimed, enjoyed the backing of their respective governments. Their anti-Islamic rhetoric was later translated into national foreign policy discourse, he said.

IPI Executive Director Professor Sajjad Bokhari, speaking on the occasion, said that there was “a clear and present danger” that anti-Muslim sentiments in Europe could inflame further because of poor governance and economic losses suffered by those societies due to mishandling of Covid-19 pandemic. The problem, he said, had “far-reaching political and humanitarian impact.”

“Leaders, representatives, academics and religious scholars from the Muslim world must come forward and play a constructive role in stemming the rise tide of Islamophobia,” he added.


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